RootsTech: Al Fox Carraway and Noelle Pikus Pace Share Their Inspirational Stories
Contributed By Ryan Morgenegg, Church News staff writer
- Noelle Pikus Pace, an Olympic athlete, spoke to those in attendance about the need to be persistent, set goals, and become the best person possible.
- Al Fox Carraway, blogger and designer, spoke about her conversion and the great blessing of being involved in gospel and family history work.
“What you are involved in is real. This is the greatest thing you could ever be a part of. And I love that. Forget not why you are here. Forget not what you should be striving toward.” —Al Fox Carraway
In the opening general session of Family Discovery Day at RootsTech on February 14, 2015, Al Fox Carraway and Noelle Pikus Pace gave inspirational presentations reflecting on past experiences in their lives.
Sister Fox Carraway spoke about her conversion and the great blessing it is to be involved in gospel and family history work. Sister Pikus Pace talked about the past, present, and future and the need to be persistent, set goals, and become the best person possible.
Sister Fox Carraway shares many of her experiences in the gospel online on her own blog. At Family Discovery Day she said that just before she turned 21, she met missionaries on the street.
Her initial intent in meeting with the missionaries was to prove them wrong. She decided she would live the principles they taught so she could prove that it didn’t work. “I didn’t want the gospel to be true at all—not even a sliver of it,” she said. “Because if it was true, I would have to change.”
As she started to read the scriptures and pray sincerely, Sister Fox Carraway noticed she started to overcome things in her life that she thought she would suffer with the rest of her life. She noticed a change, but now she wanted to make a change, and God was with her.
She said she made the decision to be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. “I physically felt that gift,” she said. “The contrast is huge. The difference is real. I finally had a true and lasting happiness.” As a result, she lost all of her friends. Her family’s negative reaction was the hardest trial of her life.
Following a strong impression to move to Utah, Sister Fox Carraway packed up all she had and left New York. One of her first encounters in Utah was not positive. “I was standing in line holding a Church book when the guy next to me said, ‘It’s pretty ironic you look the way you do holding that book.’ My heart broke,” she said. The man’s comment was in reference to the many tattoos she had gotten before she met the missionaries.
Despite those challenges, Sister Fox Carraway said she ultimately had to decide to follow God or not to follow God. She chose God. “Hard times will consistently be there, but so will Christ,” she said. “Do not let giving up be an option.”
Speaking directly to the audience assembled for Family Discovery Day, Sister Fox Carraway said, “What you are involved in is real. This is the greatest thing you could ever be a part of. And I love that. Forget not why you are here. Forget not what you should be striving toward.”
Sister Fox Carraway is married and has a new baby. One of her sisters was baptized and has received the temple sealing ordinances with her husband and children.
Starting with a video clip of her Winter Olympic Games, Sister Pikus Pace took the stage at Family Discovery Day on the one-year anniversary of the day she won her Olympic silver medal.
“There are three areas of ancestry I would like to focus on today,” she said, “the past, the present, and the future.”
Relating the hard work and sacrifice she gave to compete in the Olympics to doing family history work, Sister Pikus Pace said that great joy comes by succeeding after dedicating so much sacrifice, time, commitment, and perseverance to something. “It is well worth it,” she said.
Sister Pikus Pace told the story of her ancestors Gottlieb and Catherine, who joined the Church in Germany and came to the United States with their five small children. They settled in Providence, Utah, and arrived with only a few cents to their names. Instead of lamenting how much they had sacrificed, the family got to work making the best out of the situation.
They eventually had 14 children. Gottlieb made bricks for many buildings in Utah's Cache County, including Utah State University. Their posterity numbers in the thousands, and they have made contributions in all areas of the world. “I am grateful for the sacrifices they made and for the heritage I have and for the records that they left behind,” said Sister Pikus Pace. “I am where I am today in great part due to their faith and the decisions they made so many years ago.”
In researching family lines, it’s just like competing in the Olympics, she said. “The course can get a little bumpy. A line can come to a dead end and it may seem impossible to move forward,” said Sister Pikus Pace. “There were many days I felt like that while competing in the skeleton, and the advice is the same. Be persistent. Be resilient.”
She then shared one of her favorite quotes from President Thomas S. Monson: “Work will win when wishy-washy wishing won’t.”
For the present, Sister Pikus Pace told audience members that each of them had stories to tell. Whether they were stories of joy or sorrow, tragedy or triumph, those were the things that had shaped life for them. “But if they have never been written down,” she said, “who will know about them? Who will ever learn and grow from them?”
From her personal life, Sister Pikus Pace shared a story about her desire to improve in her skeleton training but not knowing what to do. One day she started a journal in which she made goals for her improvement. Slowly but surely she made improvements that led her to winning a silver medal in the Olympics.
Speaking about the future, she said that a goal of personal progress should be a priority for everyone. Habits will shape people into what they will eventually become. It is not too late to become the best person possible. “Make the necessary changes today to improve your habits for your life and for your tomorrow,” said Sister Pikus Pace.
She quoted from Alma 37:6: “Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.”
Sister Pikus Pace said, “Who you are today and who you are becoming shapes not only your future but the future of your posterity, those related to you and those who are simply acquainted with you. Ancestry is tied together by the future, the past, and the present.”
The decisions people make each day will affect those around them and most definitely their descendants, she said. “Learn about your ancestors. Keep a journal. Progress forward each and every day,” said Sister Pikus Pace. “I know that family history is a part of Heavenly Father’s plan while we are here.”